Business Focus with Victoria Ruzvidzo
The aviation industry is a very sensitive one where any negative story has far-reaching consequences, particularly in challenged economies such as ours. It therefore boggles the mind how an airline such as Air Zimbabwe, still struggling to regain its brand after it was grounded for a long time, would
allow itself to be in the spotlight yet again, and for the wrong reasons.
Of course, no person or institution is infallible but the penchant to score own goals by Airzim is amazing if not very regrettable.
While I commiserate with my good friend and colleague Mrs Shingai Dhliwayo who went out of her way to explain the situation and reassure travellers, the fact remains that Air Zimbabwe needs to appreciate that it is in business and should, therefore, behave as such.
Basics in business tell me that we should anticipate challenges and hence should always have a fallback position in the event that the challenge does occur like having a generator in case power goes out.
The fact that the airline had to significantly delay flights over shortage of fuel is an excuse that only plunges the Airzim deep into the quagmire.
That the airline is facing immense operational challenges is no secret at all; it is something well-documented.
But this habit of always complicating things for itself, much like shooting itself in the foot, is not on.
Some years ago, the airline was known for a “tradition of caring” that it bragged so much about, but now it has since become a tradition of scaring. This company churns out one negative story after another with so much precision it hurts.
Its failure to keep reserves of Jet A1 fuel that resulted in delayed flights over a few days was just but a symptom of the challenges the airline is facing.
We are sure something could have been done to ensure adequate supplies were available even when a ship that carried the fuel was delayed.
Indeed, other airlines in the region such as South African Airways experienced the same delays but they had a fallback position and did not have to cancel or delay any flights.
The fact that Airzim had to dash to Zambia to fuel up means that our neighbours were better prepared than us. Hence it is inexcusable for the national carrier to cry wolf.
Air Zimbabwe is supposed to carry the country’s image but so far it has failed dismally to represent us.
I want to believe that books and theses have been written about its problems, spanning over decades but what is required is decisive action that will breathe life into the airline.
It needs to be the pride of the country that effectively and efficiently carries passengers, be they tourists, investors and others visitors, in and out of the country in the best possible manner.
It has to be a reliable carrier that should advance Zimbabwe’s brand as a must-visit tourist or investor destination.
It has to conquer the skies once more and become a force to reckon with in the skies. Its failure to fly high has so much collateral damage on the economy and does puncture efforts to restore Zimbabwe’s image, battered by years of misinformation by the Western media.
But then if we do manage to convince tourists and investors that this is the best place to be, what good is it if they find the national carrier unable to bring them in or take them back for one reason or another.
First impressions do matter, hence so much business is being lost because the national airline is limping and appears to be in the habit of worsening an already precarious position.
Saddled with a $300 million debt, the airline can only do so much but we hope the powers that be will come up with a solution sooner rather than later.
Zimbabwe has the skills and boasts of great turnaround strategists and we would want to believe that we do have the intellect in this country to help transform the airline’s fortunes.
The airline has lost business that runs into millions over the years and it needs to be rescued urgently.
For instance, the Harare-Johannesburg route is a viable one and we have seen SAA increase the number of flights on this route which means the business is there.
We also receive many letters of travellers who bemoan its absence on the Harare-London route and the Harare-Beijing-Guangzhou routes.
This implies that the business is there but it needs carefully thought out strategies to ensure the national carrier resumes business on those routes.
Of course, we are all chuffed by the fact that a number of airlines that had abandoned Zimbabwe are back here, but the experience would be better if our own national carrier was in it too.
It’s really sad to note that instead of getting better, the situation at Airzim is worsening. Passengers were slowly beginning to trust the airline again but true to form, it misfired again.
The sad thing is that such news, no matter how temporary the fuel challenge might be, travels very fast. In this day and age of technology, Facebook, Twitter and all those platforms, news reaches the farthest place on earth within seconds of it happening but it so happens that the fact that the situation has eventually been resolved will not travel that fast or that far.
Please Airzim and those charged with its welfare, do something to revive the airline and rebuild its image as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the world.
The airline needs to be working so that investors and tourists will not think twice about coming to this country.
The economy cannot afford an ailing national carrier. Indeed, Airzim is strategic in our economic resuscitation. The tourism sector will not achieve its potential unless Airzim is operating viably.
Even domestic tourism is compromised when tourists are held at the airport for five hours, for a 30-minute or 45-minute journey. The road, though strenuous, becomes the only viable option.
Of course, all hope is not lost on the airline but action is required so that we won’t find ourselves talking or writing about the same issues this time next year.
Restoring Airzim could be one of the quick-wins that will transform the economy significantly.
It is not too late to salvage the situation but the earlier this is done the better. Airzim has been on life support for too long.
There has to be a formula that works, one that will deal with this situation once and for all. If breakthroughs have been made towards a cure for deadly diseases such as AIDS and cancer, surely something can be done for Airzim.
We are spoiling for a day when the airline will reclaim its rightful position in the aviation sector and begins to fly to more destinations.
This is certainly not wishful thinking but it is practically possible for Airzim to get back in shape and start posting huge profits to help develop the economy.
With a greater resolve it can be done because failure is certainly not an option!
In God I trust!
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